In a fiery statement made during Thursday’s FCC Open Agenda Meeting, the lone Democratic Commissioner — Mignon Clyburn — assailed the so-called “UHF discount” as “a relic of a bygone era.” She also echoed the sentiments made in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday (4/19) by Democratic House Members Frank Pallone Jr. and Nancy Pelosi by noting the UHF discount’s reinstatement creates a “loophole” allowing for increased consolidation by media companies.
As expected, Clyburn’s impassioned argument against the reversal of a Wheeler Commission decision to dump the discount fell on the deaf ears of Pai and Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, with its reinstatement approved 2-1 along party lines.
O’Rielly reiterated that the Commission’s UHF discount is linked to the national television ownership cap, as did Pai in his statement.
Pai noted that the Wheeler Commission eliminated the UHF discount on a party-line vote, with Pai’s pleas to not do so until a broader examination of the national cap was done coming in 2013.
“We easily could have reviewed the national cap in those three years,” Pai said as the Commission “wiped the slate clean.”
Following the vote, NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith reiterated its support of the UHF discount’s return.
“NAB supports today’s FCC action reinstating the UHF TV station ownership discount and commends Chairman Pai for his leadership on this issue,” Smith said. “This represents a rational first step in media ownership reform policy allowing free and local broadcasters to remain competitive with multi-national pay TV giants and broadband providers.”